Court told of Crowe blackmail plot
By STEPHEN GIBBS
© Copyright The Sydney Morning Herald (Jan 13, 2000)
A part-owner of Darlinghurst night club Rogues allegedly conspired to extort up to $200,000 from Russell Crowe to stop a tape showing the actor in a bar brawl being given to police and media.
Phillip Antony Cropper, 35, and another man tried to enlist South Sydney rugby league coach Craig Coleman and player-manager Sam Ayoub to make the demand of Crowe, a court heard yesterday.
Crowe, star of LA Confidential and The Insider, was involved in a scuffle at the Saloon Bar in Coffs Harbour about 3.30am on November 18. After the fight, police madefive unsuccessful attempts to obtain security video footage of the incident.
According to a statement tendered to Central Local Court, the owners of the Saloon Bar, Malcolm Mercer, 37, and Mark Potts, 42, deliberately withheld the tape.
Instead, Mercer allegedly contacted Cropper to discuss approaching Crowe with a demand for money.
At the time, Cropper had been the subject of a separate police inquiry, and his mobile telephone was being tapped.
In one recorded conversation, Mercer allegedly told Cropper he intended asking Crowe for $200,000 to dispose of the tape.
On November 22, according to the statement, Mercer was recorded telling Cropper they should ask Coleman to contact Rabbitoh fanatic Crowe about the tape.
The same night Cropper had left a message on the answering machine of Ayoub, whom he had known for 10 years. Cropper said he wanted to contact Crowe, "as Crowe has some dramas, and a mate has a video he might want to purchase".
In another conversation, Cropper had told Mercer that Crowe had enough money to pay $45,000 for a bell at an auction to raise money for Souths.
On November 24, Mercer had called Cropper and again stated he wanted to sell the tape to American media. "It'll certainly ruin his f---in' credibility," Mercer said. "I should ring CNN, shouldn't I?"
The same morning Cropper had left another message for Ayoub suggesting Crowe should "put his hand in his pocket and f---in' buy it". "If he can pay 40 grand for a f---in' bell ... he'll be wanting to pay 40 grand for a tape of him biting someone's face and f---in' punching a sheila."
In a return call, Ayoub had given Cropper the mobile number of Coleman. Cropper had immediately called Coleman and told him to contact Crowe. Coleman was reticent. "The last thing a bloke wants to do is f---in' end up with CNN buying the c--- or something like that, you know what I mean?" Cropper said.
That day Mercer had called Ben Fordham, a producer with Channel Nine's A Current Affair, and Andy Byrne, chief of staff of The Daily Telegraph.
According to the statement, Fordham gave Mercer a sum of money for exclusive use of the tape, and a Telegraph reporter handed over $6,000 for four stills. The next day the Telegraph ran the pictures and a story quoting Mercer saying: "The tape shows that Russell was completely in the wrong ... and he won't be welcome here anymore."
Cropper, who has a $250,000 interest in Rogues, is charged with conspiring to extort, conspiring to pervert justice and conspiring to hinder an investigation.
Cropper's barrister, Mr Robert Somosi, said his client would deny attempting to do anything criminal.
The magistrate, Mr Derek Price, granted bail on several conditions, including that $100,000 be deposited as security and that Cropper live at his Surfers Paradise apartment.
Mercer has been charged with the same offences as Cropper, and Potts with conspiring to pervert justice and conspiring to hinder an investigation. They will appear in Coffs Harbour Local Court on February 14.
Bid to extort $200,000 from Crowe
By Legal Affairs Editor Cindy Wockner
The Daily Telegraph (Jan 13, 2000)
Two men, including a Coffs Harbour nightclub owner, conspired to extort $200,000 from Hollywood star Russell Crowe by offering to keep secret a security video of a brawl involving Crowe, a court heard yesterday.
The plot was revealed when the men appeared in different courts, where it was alleged that planning of the extortion bid was captured on telephone intercepts monitored by police.
Phillip Antony Cropper, 35, a Gold Coast businessman who has a $250,000 interest in Sydney's Rogues nightclub, appeared in Central Local Court charged with conspiring with Malcolm Brian Mercer, a nightclub owner, to demand $200,000 with menaces from Crowe.
Cropper is also charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice and conspiring to hinder an investigation with Mercer and Mark James Potts by withholding a VHS security video of the brawl from police.
According to a seven-page police statement of facts tendered to Central Local Court detectives from Strike Force Parkmore had been monitoring Cropper's mobile telephone from November 16, two days before the Crowe incident, which occurred outside the nightclub in the early hours of November 18.
The statement alleges that at 8.26pm on November 18 Mercer called Cropper and told him he intended asking for $200,000 from Crowe to dispose of the tape and thus destroy the evidence.
According to the statement, several days later Mercer called Cropper, telling him they were thinking of approaching the South Sydney coach Craig Coleman in a bid to contact Crowe.
On the same day Cropper left a message for Sam Ayoub, a sports manager, telling him he "wanted to get in touch with Russell Crowe as Crowe has some dramas and a mate has a video he might want to purchase".
On November 24 it is alleged that Mercer again called Cropper and told him to call a third party, either Crowe or Mr Coleman, and tell him "that the tape shows him (Crowe) ripping some girl's top on the bar" and "just tell him that I'm the, I'm about to f...ing give it either to American, they phone or whoever but the (Daily) Telegraph want to fly up".
And later on the same day, Cropper is recorded telling Ayoub's mobile message bank that he should contact Crowe: "put his hand in his pocket and f...ing buy it, if he can pay forty grand for a f...ing bell (laughs). He'll be wanting to pay forty grand for a tape of him biting someone's face and f...ing punching a sheila". The bell relates to $40,000 Crowe paid at a South Sydney charity auction.
It is also alleged Cropper then called Mr Coleman, telling him he should call Crowe and "tell him it is a video, it's very clear, very clear, the TV want to buy it, the last thing a bloke wants to do is f...ing end up with CNN buying the c... or something like that, you know what I mean".
It is alleged that on November 24 Mercer contacted Channel 9's A Current Affair and The Daily Telegraph offering to sell the tape. The statement says Channel 9 paid Mercer an undisclosed sum of money and The Daily Telegraph paid for still shots taken from the video.
Police alleged that Cropper had "extensive ties to criminal milieu in NSW and Queensland".
Bob Somosi, representing Cropper, said at least $500,000 of Cropper's assets had been frozen and if bail was refused, Cropper's Gold Coast golf ball retrieval business would completely fail.
Cropper was granted bail and will appear in Coffs Harbour Local Court on February 14.
Russell's Brawl Caught on Tape
(Daily Telegraph 11/25/99)
HOLLYWOOD star Russell Crowe has been caught on security camera tape during a half-hour of mayhem outside a northern NSW nightclub.
The video, viewed yesterday by The Daily Telegraph, captures Crowe on the footpath after leaving the club before getting into a waiting limousine.
In that half hour, Crowe is seen to:
Start three fights;
Argue heatedly with a woman;
Throw a punch at his brother who tries to restrain him;
Kiss a man who attempted to calm him down.
Malcolm Mercer, part- owner of the Saloon Bar nightclub in Coffs Harbour where Crowe had been drinking, said the video clearly showed Crowe was the aggressor.
"The tape shows that Russell was completely in the wrong," Mr Mercer said.
Crowe was caught on four security cameras outside the Saloon Bar in the early hours last Thursday.
He is clearly seen leaving the club about 2am, accompanied by his brother, Terry, and another man, described by witnesses there as a minder.
A highly agitated Crowe paces the footpath, theatrically throwing his hands in the air.
The two men usher him towards a waiting limousine but he refuses to get in and begins talking to a young woman.
Although there is no sound on the tape it is obvious that an argument develops.
Crowe angrily points at the woman, who storms off.
Crowe then approaches a group of people who are standing nearby. He grabs one man and there is a wrestling match, quickly broken up by Crowe's brother and the minder.
They drag him to the limousine's door but he still refuses to go.
After a few minutes he walks back to the group, throwing a punch at his brother, who tries to stop him. Crowe starts another fight but a security guard from the club quickly moves to stop it.
Crowe and the guard fall to the ground and Crowe is pinned down.
As the guard releases him, Crowe can be clearly seen to kick out with both feet.
Crowe is again dragged back to the car by several men including Marty Phillips, publican of the nearby Coffs Harbour Hotel.
Crowe then tries to break free from the men.
Saloon Bar manager John Judd then arrives and tries to placate Crowe.
Crowe puts his arm around him and kisses a shocked Mr Judd on the cheek.
At the end of the tape, Crowe's minder walks towards a man who has been watching and punches are thrown. Crowe runs off towards the fight and out of the video frame.
Police then arrive and begin talking to some of the bystanders.
The limousine then drives off in the same direction Crowe was last seen heading by the camera.
Mr Mercer said the actor had appeared angry outside the club. He said Crowe had been "mouthing off" and swearing.
And he predicted the star would not visit again.
"He won't be welcome here anymore," Mr Mercer said.
Crowe's Saloon Bar Brawl
(Daily Telegraph 11/24/99)
HOLLYWOOD star Russell Crowe was knocked to the ground and had to be physically restrained after a nightclub fight, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
As the fight spilled out into the street, Crowe struggled to break free from friends as a man goaded him until police arrived.
The 35-year-old actor was scratched under the eye and the other man suffered a broken thumb and what appeared to be a bite wound to the neck.
Crowe had earlier that night gone to see friend Mark Lizotte perform at the Sawtell RSL Club near his northern NSW home.
After leaving the club with his brother Terry and friends from the area in the early hours of Thursday morning, he went to the Saloon Bar, a Coffs Harbour nightclub which is popular with locals.
A friend said Crowe had been in good spirits although he was becoming annoyed after being consistently approached by strangers.
"Some girls were flirting with him and their boyfriends were getting jealous," the friend said.
The fight began as Crowe was leaving the Saloon Bar about 3.30am.
Witnesses said the fight appeared to have started after an argument about two young women.
The two men wrestled and Crowe was knocked to the ground.
Marty Phillips, owner of the Coffs Harbour Hotel, said he physically restrained Crowe after the trouble started.
"It was just one of those things. He was being provoked by an unruly sort of person and I just didn't want to see him have any problems," Mr Phillips said.
"He was fired up but that's about as far as it went.
"I just wanted to protect him.
"It was the end of a good night, one of those things, it could happen to anyone."
It is believed police arrived and sent the two men on their way.
However, Coffs Harbour police yesterday refused to confirm that Russell Crowe was involved in any incident.
"It has been indicated to police that there will be no complaint made by any person about an alleged assault last week," Detective Senior Constable Paul Atkinson said.
"As a result police will be taking no action at this stage."
A spokesman for the Sawtell RSL Club confirmed Crowe had been at the concert in the Princess Room but there had been no trouble during the night.
"He just seemed to be enjoying himself like everyone else," the spokesman said.
Regulars at the Coffs Harbour Hotel said Crowe was "just like one of the boys".
Crowe Big Hit In Club
By Roger Maynard
South China Morning Post (November 25, 1999)
Australian actor Russell Crowe was knocked to the ground during a nightclub punch-up near his home.
The 35-year-old, who shot to international fame after starring in the hit American film LA Confidential, was goaded by another patron at the Saloon Bar nightclub in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.
A friend said some of the girls in the club were flirting with the actor and their boyfriends got jealous, the Daily Telegraph reported yesterday.
As he left the club an argument started over two young women and Crowe was wrestled to the ground by another man.
Both suffered minor injuries - Crowe a scratch under an eye and his assailant a broken thumb and what appeared to be a bite wound to the neck.
The owner of the bar, Marty Phillips, said he was forced to physically restrain Crowe at one stage.
"He was being provoked by an unruly sort of person and I just didn't want to see him have any problems," Phillips said.
Police said they would not be taking any action.
Crowe, famous for his fiery temperament, starred as a skinhead in the Australian film Romper Stomper in l992.
The Sunday Telegraph
December 5, 1999
HOLLYWOOD horror Russell Crowe allegedly terrorised a retired couple in yet another drunken incident three months before his Coffs Harbour rampage.
The Romper Stomper star with a growing reputation for bad behaviour allegedly kicked down a door at an outback motel three months ago.
Sydney retirees John and Faye Jones were so scared of the out-of-control star that they cut their stay short and fled from their motel room in the early hours.
"It amazes me that people can carry on this way," a disgusted Mr Jones told The Sunday Telegraph. "It really was over the top."
Crowe outraged Coffs Harbour residents on the NSW north coast two weeks ago when he attacked several people in a drunken rage outside a nightclub.
Victim Brett Martin, who suffered a bite to his neck and a broken thumb in Crowe's attack, made a statement to police on Tuesday.
He is also considering a civil action against Crowe because of concerns that his injury may leave his hand permanently damaged.
Mr Jones said while he and his wife escaped uninjured when Crowe came to Camooweal, they were disgusted with his berserk behaviour.
The couple were en route from Broome to Sydney when they made an overnight pitstop at Camooweal in north-west Queensland on August 27.
The retirees booked into the Post Office Hotel in the tiny town of just 234 people on the Georgina River, almost 300km north-west of Brisbane.
Mr Jones said a group of motorbike riders, including Crowe, came into the pub about 10pm and were behaving in a rowdy manner.
"All hell broke loose about midnight and they carried on until about 2.30am," he said.
Crowe and his mates' antics kept Mr and Mrs Jones prisoners in their motel room – until they decided to leave after Crowe allegedly kicked down the adjacent motel-room door.
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